Tag Archives: JK Simmons

The Accountant (2016)

Ever wondered what the Bourne movies would have been like had they cast Ben Affleck instead of Matt Damon? Well, The Accountant is probably about as close as you’re gonna get.

Directed by the acclaimed director of Warrior, Gavin O’Connor, The Accountant stars Affleck as a highly functional autistic mathematics genius named Christian, who makes a living uncooking the books of some of the most dangerous criminals in the world.

Christian’s world is turned upside down when he ends up working on a new case for a company run by John Lithgow, and finds himself in mortal danger along with the young company employee who found a discrepancy in the company’s books (Anna Kendrick). Pursuing him is Oscar-winner JK Simmons, playing a Treasury agent, with the assistance of a junior data analyst (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), as well as a hitman played by Jon Bernthal.

One important fact I forgot to mention in the above synopsis is that Christian is also a Jason Bourne/John Wick-type ass-kicker who is incredible with a sniper rifle and deadly in hand-to-hand combat. Don’t freak out — there is an explanation for this, but it sure does elevate the threshold for suspension for disbelief.

And that’s the really just one of the many problems of The Accountant — it takes itself a little too seriously for a premise you’re more likely to see in a comic book movie. There are moments of humour and levity, but for the most part O’Connor keeps the film as a straight action-thriller, and as a result there’s a bit of a disconnect. This is particularly so as the film moves into the final act and there are a few plot twists and reveals — the first  is telegraphed from very early on and not a surprise at all, and the second, which comes at the very end, is pretty ridiculous.

My other main problem with it is the casting of Anna Kendrick, who could not be a worse match for Ben Affleck. The two just look so wrong together on screen, and even decent performances from both can’t make the chemistry work. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Affleck’s acting, though here he is good enough because he simply needs to be expressionless or dopey-looking the majority of the time. I do have to say that he executes the action sequences flawlessly (maybe it’s the Batman training) and makes you believe that he really has all those moves.

Weirdly, not withstanding all the flaws, I actually really enjoyed The Accountant. I thought the premise and concept were intriguing and the plot itself compelling enough to keep my interest. The action scenes were also extremely well done, nearly on par with what you might see in a Bourne film. I just had to take a step back and treat it as more or less a superhero movie — not of the fantastical Thor or Iron Man nature but more grounded, like say Netflix’s Daredevil or Luke Cage — and I soon found it highly watchable and entertaining. Go in with reasonable expectations and you might too.

3.75 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Whiplash (2014)

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So everybody’s raving on about this little movie called Whiplash that is tearing up the critics circle and earned a Best Picture nod for the Oscars later this month. Naturally, I had to check it out, and now I’m singing its praises like everyone else.

Whiplash is a testament to what a bold idea, a strong script and capable actors can deliver notwithstanding a shoestring budget of just US$3.3 million. To be honest I don’t think this is the type of movie I would have considered watching had it not received so much hype. I don’t know about you, but the idea of a drama about a student jazz drummer and his volatile teacher doesn’t exactly rock my boat. And yet, thanks to positive word of mouth, Whiplash has become one of my dark horse favourites of the year.

The story centers on 19-year-old Andrew (Miles Teller), a seemingly regular teenager except for his obsessive ambition to be the best drummer in the world. Andrew attends New York’s prestigious Shaffer Conservatory, and a step in reaching his goal is to get onto the band of renowned conductor Terrence Fletcher (JK Simmons), a horrifying human being who loves driving his students not just to the edge, but flying right over the cliff Thelma-and-Louise style.

It may sound like a “meh” premise, but Whiplash is no doubt one of the most explosive and intense movies of the year. Apart from the tension from the constant thumping of the drums, my heart pounded every time Fletcher was on screen and about to rip into one his students. The fear and anxiety they felt was very terrifying, but also very human. I was on the edge of my seat from the very first scene, and I don’t even care much for drumming. I guess never knew music schools and jazz bands could be so cutthroat, and that the blood, sweat and tears could be — in this case — so real.

Full credit to writer and director Damien Chazelle in his sophomore effort for making every scene count. It’s one of those films where you don’t really know where it’s heading, and yet you don’t care because you’re so caught up in the moment. Some of the characters may seem like caricatures at first, but they reveal more and more of themselves — most of which are negative character traits — as the film progresses.

One of my favourite scenes from the entire movie was Andrew sitting at the dinner table with his family, who clearly think more of sporting achievements than musical ones. It’s a brilliantly constructed scene with beautiful dialogue, and despite it being one of the only scenes involving Andrew’s family, it was all the audience needed to know about them and Andrew’s simmering ego below an apparently timid surface.

Most of you have probably seen JK Simmons do his curt, straight-faced deliveries before, though he’s never been this good before. The viciousness he pours into Fletcher cuts right to the bone, and yet there is a “I’m doing this for your own good” vibe that underlies his nuanced performance. The Best Supporting Actor Oscar is well deserved.

The real revelation of the film is Miles Teller, who absolutely got snubbed by the Oscar committee for his portrayal of Andrew, whose single-minded obsession drives the soul of the narrative. Teller first grabbed my attention in Rabbit Hole, and despite not having movie-star looks he appears to be headed for big things by snagging the role of Mr Fantastic in the new Fantastic 4 remake (and judging from the teaser trailer, it’s gonna be gooooood).

Whiplash also makes some interesting observations about talent, hard work and the type of teaching methods employed by Fletcher. We want our kids to aim for clear goals in life, but at what point does obsession with success become self-destructive? And is pushing students beyond their limits so they can be truly great worth the cost? How many people have to be demoralized and destroyed so that one can rise up above the rest? Whiplash doesn’t answer these questions, but it certainly will make you think about them.

At 109 minutes, it is arguable that Whiplash‘s running time is a little long for a film of its kind, though much of that could be blamed on a crazy climax some might think is over the top. Personally, I didn’t mind it because the satisfaction from the pay-off is well worth the wait.

This is an unusual film with an allure that is difficult to grasp. The experience speaks for itself, and you don’t have to love music or drumming to be riveted by its brilliance.

4.5 stars out of 5

DVD Review: I Love You Man (2009)

I usually only review new movies out at the cinemas, but I Love You, Man is recent enough so I’ll make an exception.

Paul Rudd has unexpectedly become one of my favourite comedic actors (who would have thought that after Clueless he’d still be around 15 years later, while Alicia Silverstone never did anything noteworthy since?) and Jason Segel really grew on me after Forgetting Sarah Marshall.  Throw in these two funny dudes in a film written and directed by John Hamburg (who co-wrote Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers and Zoolander and directed Along Came Polly), and the outcome is a wild and hilarious ride!

I Love You, Man is a highly unconventional movie.  It’s essentially a romantic comedy with two guys as the leads, but with no homosexual overtones whatsoever (not that there’s anything wrong with that) – a bro-mantic comedy, so to speak.  Paul Rudd plays Peter Klaven, a regular guy, a recently-engaged real estate agent who has invested all his time and effort into his relationships with women that he has no real male friends.  Enter Jason Segel’s character Sydney Fife, a carefree dude with a take it or leave it attitude to life that turns Peter’s life upside down.

I know, that sounds like a pretty crappy, cheesy premise, but I Love You, Man really works, probably in ways you wouldn’t expect.  It’s not a gross-out or stupid comedy – it is surprisingly honest and realistic (for a comedy of this sort, anyway), but the laughs are by no means second rate.  Rudd’s brutally awkward performance and his chemistry with Segel provide most of the funny moments, but the supporting cast – which includes the lovely Rashida Jones, the always welcome JK Simmons, and The Lonely Island’s Adam Samberg – are also extremely solid.

I Love You, Man is not without flaws, and it is, after all, a romantic comedy, so expectations need to be kept in check.  That being said, it is a lot funnier than a movie of this kind should be.

3.75 out of 5 stars!